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Instagram’s VP of Product Provides Insight into its Hidden Like Count Test

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Instagram’s hidden like counts test has been a source of much debate since the platform first announced the trial back in April last year.

Why would Instagram do this? What will the impacts be on measurement? Will it cause people to post more or less as a result?

Thus far, Instagram hasn’t provided many answers, but this week, we got a little more insight into the thinking behind the test, and its current impacts, via Vishal Shah, Instagram’s VP of Product, who took part in an interview on ‘The Social Media Geekout’ podcast, which is hosted by social media expert Matt Navarra.

The interview is well worth a listen for anyone looking to get a better understanding of Instagram’s internal thinking, on many aspects, but on the hidden like counts test specifically, Shah provides an overview, and some explanations to help clarify where they’re at. 

Shah first notes that the origin of the hidden like count test came from internal feedback from its various teams.

“This one came from the team that works on interactions and feed, so this team is incentivized to try to drive more likes [and] more comments, but in all of their user research, they heard so loud and clear that people felt like the public like count was a very high area of pressure for them when they produce content on Instagram […] the act of expression itself is what we cared about, not the validation, or perceived validation, that a public like count gets people.” 

Shah says that when Instagram was first launched, a public Like count made sense (“that was sort of a norm at the time”), but now, particularly when you consider the rise of the Stories format, public engagement metrics are no longer the things that drive behavior.

“If people were deleting the stuff that they posted to feed because they felt like they were competing with themselves [or] they were competing with public figures and celebrities and influencers that they felt they could never be on an even playing field, we thought this was one of the most effective ways to even that playing field and remove some of that pressure for performing.”

Shah says this is one of the biggest changes that they have ever sought to make, and the reason that it’s taking so long to test is because Instagram’s internal team needs more time to be able to measure the true impact of the update before moving ahead. With such a significant change, Shah says, some shifts in behavior will occur in the short-term, but to really understand the behavioral effects, you need a longer time frame to see whether it’s actually altering usage.

And while he doesn’t go into depth about the results they’ve seen thus far, Shah does provide this little indicator of what’s happening:

“We knew going into this that we would likely have to trade-off some amount of engagement to do this work, and we are very comfortable doing that if in the end it makes people more comfortable expressing themselves and sharing on Instagram.”

That would likely suggest that they are seeing a reduction in post engagement in regions where like counts have been removed.

That would align with a recent study by HypeAuditor, which found that total like counts have fallen for influencers operating within the regions where the test is active.

HypeAuditor hidden like counts report

That test is confined to influencers only, but based on Shah’s comments, this may well be indicative of the broader trends – that people are, in fact, seeing less engagement on their posts, overall, as a result of like counts being removed.

What Shah doesn’t note, however, is how Instagram is measuring the relative success, or not, of the test.

How will Instagram decide if it’s ultimately a success or a failure, and what metrics is it looking to improve as a result of the trial?

If there’s a reduction in the amount of people deleting their posts, is that an indicator of success?

One recent report suggested that the actual aim of Instagram’s hidden likes test is less about user wellbeing, as such, and more about getting users to post more often. CNBC reported last month that, according to three former Instagram employees, internal research at the company suggested that hiding like counts would “increase the number of posts people make to the service, by making them feel less self-conscious when their posts don’t get much engagement”.

That makes some sense, and as a side benefit, maybe it also reduces that performance pressure which Instagram is using as the main impetus for the change. Less pressure, more content – Instagram wins in the long term, and in that sense, it’s possible that increased post frequency per user is the key metric that Instagram is looking at in order to measure the ultimate success or failure of the trial.

Shah says they haven’t made a decision at this stage as to whether the test will be rolled out to all users, but he notes that they remain excited about the project, and that they will continue to push forward with the test.

In addition to this, Shah also discusses the development of Instagram’s ‘Threads’ messaging app, the expansion of messaging access to the desktop version, and the future of the app more broadly. Shah shares a lot of interesting notes – if you’re looking to get a better understanding of the platform and where it’s headed, you can (and should) check out the ‘Social Media Geekout’ podcast here.

So nothing concrete on the future of hidden like counts as yet, but it’s interesting to consider what these insights mean for the current impacts, as well as the motivations behind the actual implementation and success of the test.

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FACEBOOK

Facebook, Instagram and YouTube: Government forcing companies to protect you online

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Although many of the details have still to be confirmed, it’s likely the new rules will apply to Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and Instagram

We often talk about the risks you might find online and whether social media companies need to do more to make sure you don’t come across inappropriate content.

Well, now media regulator Ofcom is getting new powers, to make sure companies protect both adults and children from harmful content online.

The media regulator makes sure everyone in media, including the BBC, is keeping to the rules.

Harmful content refers to things like violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse.

The new rules will likely apply to Facebook – who also own Instagram and WhatsApp – Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok, and will include things like comments, forums and video-sharing.

Platforms will need to ensure that illegal content is removed quickly, and may also have to “minimise the risks” of it appearing at all.

These plans have been talked about for a while now.

The idea of new rules to tackle ‘online harms’ was originally set out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in May 2018.

The government has now decided to give Ofcom these new powers following research called the ‘Online Harms consultation’, carried out in the UK in 2019.

Plans allowing Ofcom to take control of social media were first spoken of in August last year.

The government will officially announce these new powers for Ofcom on Wednesday 12 February.

But we won’t know right away exactly what new rules will be introduced, or what will happen to tech or social media companies who break the new rules.

Children’s charity the NSPCC has welcomed the news. It says trusting companies to keep children safe online has failed.

“Too many times social media companies have said: ‘We don’t like the idea of children being abused on our sites, we’ll do something, leave it to us,'” said chief executive Peter Wanless.

“Thirteen self-regulatory attempts to keep children safe online have failed.

To enjoy the CBBC Newsround website at its best you will need to have JavaScript turned on.

Back in Feb 2018 YouTube said they were “very sorry” after Newsround found several videos not suitable for children on the YouTube Kids app

The UK government’s Digital Secretary, Baroness Nicky Morgan said: “There are many platforms who ideally would not have wanted regulation, but I think that’s changing.”

“I think they understand now that actually regulation is coming.”

In many countries, social media platforms are allowed to regulate themselves, as long as they stick to local laws on illegal material.

But some, including Germany and Australia, have introduced strict rules to force social media platforms do more to protect users online.

In Australia, social media companies have to pay big fines and bosses can even be sent to prison if they break the rules.

For more information and tips about staying safe online, go to BBC Own It, and find out how to make the internet a better place for all of us.

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Instagram Gets New SloMo, Echo, and Duo Filters for Boomberang

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Facebook-owned Instagram on Saturday introduced three new options to share Boomerang Stories: SlowMo, Echo, and Duo, along with a new few feature to trim their length.

“Your Instagram camera gives you ways to express yourself and easily share what you’re doing, thinking or feeling with your friends. Boomerang is an iconic part of that, and one of the most beloved camera formats. Instagram is excited to expand on the creativity and give you new ways to use Boomerang to turn everyday moments into something fun and unexpected,” the company said in a statement.

The new filters are available in the Boomerang composer located in the Instagram Stories camera.

With SlowMo, as the name suggests, Boomerang videos are slowed to half their original speed. Echo creates a double vision effect, enhancing Boomerang and Duo, both speeds up and slows down Boomerang, adding a texturized effect.

It’s also possible to trim and adjust the length of recorded Boomerangs with the update.

The new effects come as an over-the-air (OTA) update.

To access these new effects, take a Boomerang as usual, open the Story camera, swipe over to “Boomerang” on the carousel, then tap the shutter button or hold it down and let go. Next, tap the infinity symbol along the top of the display to access the new effects.

Instagram recently launched new “Layout” feature that will allow users to include multiple photos in a single story.

With this, users now create their Stories with up to six different photos, although this new feature was already on third-party apps to create similar images.

A user just need to do is open the Stories camera inside Instagram and look for “Layout” to start combining the photos. Once finished, just publish the Story just like any other.

NDTV Gadgets360.com

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FACEBOOK

4 Million Advertisers Are Using Stories Across Instagram, Facebook, Messenger

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The total topped 3 million last May

Facebook highlighted recent Stories campaigns by Grove Collaborative and Clinique

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Facebook said at CES 2020 Tuesday that 4 million advertisers are now using Stories ads across Instagram, Facebook and Messenger.

The company’s Stories advertiser total topped 3 million last May.

The social network also highlighted recent Stories campaigns by two brands.

Direct-to-consumer brand Grove Collaborative—which makes eco-friendly household products in areas including cleaning, personal care, babies, kids and pets—created full-screen vertical video ads for immersive mobile viewing.

Facebook said the style of the videos was “personal and casual,” making it seem like actual customers were sharing videos of Grove Collaborative products being used in their homes, adding that viewers were able to swipe up to access the company’s online store.

Grove Collaborative said 37% of its new customers came via Stories, and the campaign resulted in a 25% lower cost per acquisition compared with all of its placements and a click-through rate 2.1 times higher than all of its other placements.

Skin care product manufacturer Clinique used its global #FindMyiD campaign to leverage data from Facebook’s platform and identify the top three concerns around skin.

In what the social network called a “great demonstration of personalization at scale,” Clinique then delivered personalized ads based on consumer signals, driving conversions online and in-store.

The campaign delivered a 114% lift in offline conversions in Malaysia, a 13-point lift in brand awareness (compared with the luxury benchmark of four points) in France and ad recall in 14 out of 20 markets that was two times the norms.

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